Fromage Frais

Fromage frais is a soft, light, smooth cheese with a fat content that varies from nil to over 60 per cent. The low fat kind is popular with nouvelle cuisine chefs and with people on fat-free diets as a replacement for cream. Fromage frais is usually made with cows’ milk, and since the cheese so closely resembles the soft cheese that I make from drained yoghurt I find this is the best method for producing a home-made equivalent to fromage frais.

Method

Carefully warm 570 ml(1 pt) of fresh milk to just above blood heat (45°C, 120°F). Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of fresh plain yoghurt. Set aside, covered, in a warm place for about 8 hours until the mixture has thickened. If you have time, chill the yoghurt for 24 hours to firm up the curd.

Next day line a bowl with scalded butter muslin or very fine net and spoon the yoghurt into it. Pull up the corners of the muslin, tie with a string and suspend from a hook or the upturned legs of a chair so that the yoghurt drips into the bowl placed directly underneath. When the whey has completely drained from the curds, which usually takes about 6 hours, take down the muslin and tip the cheese into a bowl.

The cheese is now ready for use. Use the whey when making scones or soda bread – it can be frozen for later use.

If you prefer a softer cheese, mix a little of the whey into the cheese. Or for a richer cheese add milk or some cream. Alternatively, to lighten the cheese, fold in a little stiffly whisked egg white.

For a delightful pudding sweeten the home-made fromage frais with a little vanilla sugar and, if you wish, fold in some whipped cream or serve plain with a few halved strawberries or a powdering of finely ground coffee. Fromage frais mixed with cream and drained overnight in heart-shaped moulds makes the charming and traditional coeurs à la crème.

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